Laos - Trek

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                                                                       2010/11 DATES:
Laos - Trek

                                                                       FRI 17 DEC – SAT 08 JAN 2011

                                                                       2010 PRICE:
                                                                       Land only (joining in Bangkok):
                                                                       Including flights:

              Style of Trip:       Hotels, comfortable lodges, simple
                                   village guesthouses or village houses

              Grade:               Moderate

              Duration:            23 Days, London to London

              On Trek:             9 Days

              Group size:          Maximum: 12 clients plus leader

                                   Minimum: 3 clients plus leader

              Will the trek run?   Guaranteed to run for a minimum of 3 persons.

                                   In the rare event that we cancel a trek we will refund you in full and
                                   give you at least 6 weeks warning. During 2009 most treks were full,
                                   therefore if you want to secure a place(s) on the dates of your
                                   choice we do advise you to book early.

              Trek Leaders:        Local leaders (see over)

                                                  Tel: 01453 844400
                                                  Fax: 01453 844422

Laos is the forgotten corner of Indo-China that until now has escaped the notice of 'world tourism'. Much of the
country is mountainous and jungle-covered and for such a small country it is occupied by a surprising diversity of
colourful ethnic groups. The mighty Mekong River is the lifeline of the country and is a major feature of this
trip and will be your constant companion. You first cross this river in the far north to enter the country and on
your last day you cross it again in the far south to leave the country. In between you make two fascinating boat
trips along the Mekong as well as visiting two major cities which are situated on the river.

There is a great potential for interesting trekking in Laos with the chance to get to see some of the fascinating
‘Minority’ tribes of the country. In various parts of the country local tourism offices, with assistance from
UNESCO, the Laos National Tourism Authority and some overseas NGOs, have set up trekking routes into their
local areas, working directly with the villages and providing the opportunity to stay in the villages and interact
with local minority groups. The aim is that such tourism should directly benefit the villagers as well as providing
a worthwhile experience for foreign tourists.
This trip offers a surprisingly wide and stimulating range of experiences and accommodation. Accommodation
ranges from very comfortable hotels and lodges to the most simple and rustic village accommodation. The
contrasts make for a very interesting experience. Facilities in the villages are basic at best but the longest time
you will be away from a hot shower is two nights at a time and it will be all the more welcome for that! The
lack of such facilities will be more than compensated for by a real insight into the culture and people of these
remote villages.

Community Eco Based Tourism
Tourism offices have been set up in towns such as Luang Namtha, Muang Sing and Pakse, and they in turn work
directly with the local hill villages. They have set up low impact tourism in direct consultation with the local
villagers who thus have a direct stake in providing a good experience for trekkers who visit their villages. The
villages supply guides and porters and the tourism offices assist in the building of simple guest accommodation,
kitchen facilities and simple bathrooms for trekkers. During a typical stay in a village food stuffs are bought
from the villagers and in some villages the villagers themselves help with the cooking, or provide meals in their
own houses or work a rotational system for entertaining the visiting group of foreign tourists in their house for
an evening. These visits also provide the opportunity for villagers to sell their simple handicrafts to visiting
parties. In this way westerners may have a very close contact with the village people and are welcomed into
their villages and the tribes themselves see direct financial benefit. Lastly the villagers are also seeing spin off
benefit in that in a number of village schools have either been newly built or improved.
Last but not least, with feedback from the villages trekkers can be given guidelines on how to behave in the
company of these hill-tribe peoples. (Please see more detailed notes at the end of this itinerary).

Where your money goes
These treks are organised through the individual local tourism offices. We pay the local tourism office who in
turn pay for the transportation to/from the trailhead, include all meals and the lodging in the villages, pay for
the local guides, and makes a contribution to the village development fund to reinvest profits from the
operation back into participating communities.

Accommodation on Trek
The local tourist authorities have built a number of small and very simple lodges in some of the villages. These
are provided with simple mattresses, pillows, quilts and mosquito nets. On occasion you may even be invited to
sleep in village houses.

Food on Trek
This will be surprisingly interesting and varied! Sticky rice is the main staple in these areas. Typically, in the
evening, this could be soup followed by duck or pork, beanshoots, chilli dip and local rice wine. Also on the
menu might be chicken, various green vegetables a bit like spinach, cabbage, river weed with sesame seed,
bananas, beans and/or bamboo shoots. River weed is unexpectedly good – paper thin crispy rectangles that are
dried and pressed. Breakfast is often savoury porridge or may be bread and eggs and/or fruit. You normally eat
a picnic lunch along the trail, an experience in itself when a real feast will be laid out for you, which you will
share with your porters and guides.

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We supply English-speaking Thai guides for the transfers and sightseeing in Bangkok and Chiang Rai.

You will be met at the Laos border at Houeixay by your first Laotian guide who will accompany you on the river
cruise to Luang Prabang. During the trekking portions your main guide will be assisted by local trek guides
supplied by the Laos tourist offices in Luang Namtha and Muang Sing. Your main guide for the north will see
you off on the flight to Pakse on Day 16, and you will meet your English-speaking guide for the south in Pakse.
These guides have a large fund of local knowledge and will be able to give you a real insight into the hill and
jungle environment you are travelling through.

We will supply sufficient porters or transport to enable you to trek with only your day sack but we do ask that
you keep your luggage on trek to a minimum as porters in Laos are not accustomed to carrying the same loads
as porters do in other areas where trekking is more of an established tradition. (see your trek dossier for
details). You will only ever be away for your main baggage for a night or two at a time so will not need to take
a vast amount for those days.

Days 1–2       Fly to Bangkok
Days 3–4       Fly to Chiang Rai, drive to Laos border, boat trip on the Mekong
Days 5         Drive to Luang Namtha.
Days 6-7       Eco trek from Luang Namtha
Day 8-11       Eco trek from Muang Sing
Days 12-13     Drive and boat trip to Luang Prabang,
Day 14-15      In Luang Prabang
Days 16 - 18   Fly to Pakse, Wat Phou and Phou Asa.
Day 19-20      Ta Ong eco trek
Days 21–23     Return to Thailand, at leisure, fly to London

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 Mountain Kingdoms holds the Association of Independent Tour Operators' (AITO) highest 5 star rating for
 Responsible Tourism. Additionally, in 2007 Mountain Kingdoms won AITO’s Award for Achievement in
 Responsible Tourism.

 Mountain Kingdoms is committed to responsible tourism, through policies and practices which permeate all
 aspects of its business. Our policies aim to ensure that we and our clients act in a way which is socially,
 environmentally and culturally sound. We feel strongly that all Mountain Kingdoms' holidays should benefit the
 local communities, protect the environment by minimising pollution, and respect local traditions, religion and
 heritage. We tread lightly - low volume, low impact trekking/touring is the best way of preserving the beautiful
 and fragile places we visit.

 We work with organisations such as Tourism Concern, International Porter Protection Group (IPPG), Tourism
 Industry Carbon Offset Service (TICOS), AITO and various Himalayan charities, to help achieve our responsible
 tourism goals. In 2007 & 2008 we set up and funded a project to provide English lessons for our sherpas in

 At Mountain Kingdoms we feel that the issue of porter protection is immensely important. We
 support the work and the aims of the IPPG (International Porter Protection Group) and as such we
 have a set of guidelines to adhere to and which we apply worldwide, eg in Nepal all porters on
 Mountain Kingdoms Local Lodge and camping treks are provided with insurance, wind/waterproof clothing,
 shoes, and goggles when crossing a high snow-covered pass.

 All Mountain Kingdoms trips, where clients choose to take our international flights, are
 carbon off-set.

 When we receive your booking we send you a full trek dossier which contains details of visas and vaccinations
 required, a suggested gear and clothing list and lots of useful information.

 If you do have queries at this initial stage do ring us and we will be pleased to offer advice. Please note that on
 this trek we supply a four-season sleeping bag and cotton liner free of charge. Hire of certain other key items
 can also be arranged in advance.

                    Jan     Feb     Mar      Apr      May      Jun      Jul      Aug      Sep    Oct    Nov    Dec


Max °C              21.3    23.6    26.5     28.1     28.0     27.8    27.4     27.0     26.9    26.2   24.2   21.6

Max °F              70.3    74.5    79.7     82.6     82.4     82.0    81.3    80.6      80.4    79.2   75.6   70.9


Max °C              19.8    22.2    24.5     27.2     28.0     27.9    27.4     26.9     26.7    25.2   22.7   19.8

Max °F              67.6    72.0    76.1     81.1     82.4     82.2    81.3     80.4     80.1    77.4   72.9   67.6

Rain in mm          22.9    21.2    38.9     91.3    130.0    166.2    204.7    266.6    164.8   69.2   22.9   8.4

                               2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10

DAY 1 – FRIDAY:                  DEPART LONDON.
Depart by flight for Bangkok.

You will be met on your arrival in Bangkok and transferred to the Montien Hotel. This is situated on the edge of
the busy night market district and there are plentiful restaurants nearby.
Overnight Montien Hotel.

Early morning transfer to catch the internal flight to Chaing Rai. Here you will be met and driven the short
drive to the area near Chiang Saen, known as The Golden Triangle. You have great views across the River
Mekong to where three countries, Burma, Laos and Thailand, meet. You should reach there in time for lunch
and will then have the afternoon to explore or relax by the hotel pool. It is pleasant to walk along the banks of
the Mekong and perhaps have a beer in a simple bar overlooking the bustle of the Mekong River. Wat Phra That
just a short walk up from the village street is worth a visit. This attractive ancient temple possibly dates back
to the 8th century – here you will see local people using candles and dice to foretell their fortune. You might
also climb to the ridge top behind the hotel for good views of the Mekong and across to Burma – the large
building you can see is a Casino.
Overnight Hotel Imperial Golden Triangle.

                                   ARRIVE HOUEIXAY, BOAT TRIP DOWN MEKONG.
You will have an early breakfast at the hotel and then you will make the hour’s drive to Chiang Kong to be there
in time for the opening of the Thai immigration at 8 o’clock. Here you will need to join the queue to get your
passport stamped out of Thailand while your luggage will be taken down to the beach to be put on a boat for
the crossing of the Mekong to Laos. Once you have been stamped out of Thailand you will make the short river
crossing and then begin the process all over again at Lao Immigration. Your Lao guide will meet you at the boat
landing and will arrange for your luggage to be taken to your vehicle. You may change money at the exchange
counter at immigration or walk the short distance up to the main street to a bank a few yards along to your left.
It is then a short drive to the port where you will board your boat for the trip downstream to Pakbeng. These
boats, specially built for tourists are normally about 30-35m long and steel hulled with timber covered saloons,
open decks and comfortable seating. It will then take most of the day to travel down the river to Pakbeng. As
you travel down stream you will be able to watch the life of the river - numerous other boats, cargo boats, jet
boats and small canoes ply upstream and downstream. On the river banks you will see fishermen using bamboo
fish traps and prospectors panning for gold. You will have the opportunity for at least one stop along the way
for your first visit to a local village. A delicious lunch will be served on board the boat. You should arrive at
Pakbeng before sunset. Pakbeng is a small, rustic town which sits on a steep hillside with good views over the
Mekong River. You will have dinner on a terrace looking out at the river. Lao beer is available or you may take
the opportunity for your first taste of the Lao liquor called Lao-Lao.
Overnight at the Villa Salika Hotel.

The Mekong River
From its source on the 4,875m/15,994ft high Mount Tang Kula on the Tibetan plateau, the Mekong river begins a
4,550km journey towards the South China Sea. It flows through China's Yuang province before entering South
East Asia. The 12th longest river in the world it acts as a border between Burma and Laos and then enters Laos
territory again to become another border, this time between Laos and Thailand. The river reaches Cambodia at
the Khone Pha Pheng waterfalls and after traversing Cambodia, flows into southern Vietnam where it forms a
fertile delta. Before the completion of the Thai/Lao Friendship Bridge in 1993, not a single span crossed its
entire south-east Asian length and in Laos it is still not dammed.

DAY 5 – TUESDAY:                  DRIVE TO LUANG NAMTHA.
At breakfast you will be introduced to one of the first unexpected treats of Laos when you are served with warm
baguettes which are one of only a few remaining legacies of former French colonial days in Laos.
Before you leave town it is worth walking the short distance up the village street to visit the colourful local
market where minority tribes from surrounding villages come daily to trade their goods. This will be your first
introduction to what will become familiar sights during your trip – meat on skewers (often of questionable
origin!), fruit, vegetables and various other household goods.

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You will set off by vehicle for the full day drive to Luang Namtha. In the morning you drive to Oudomxai
(147kms, 3 hrs driving). This is a very interesting drive through attractive countryside and on the way you will
be able to stop off to visit some villages – possible a village or two of the
Tai Dam people who are known for their spinning and weaving of locally
produced cotton. These people live in stilt houses and are animist. You
will reach the town of Oudomxai, a cross roads for trade through the
region, and have lunch in a local restaurant there.
After lunch you will continue the pretty drive to Luang Namtha (115kms,
4 hrs driving). You will arrive in Luang Namtha in the late afternoon and
continue to the Boat Landing Guest House situated just outside town on
the banks of the Nam Tha River.
Overnight Boat Landing Guest House.

Luang Namtha is a land of rugged mountains, pristine forests and rich river plains. Sharing its border with China
and Burma, the province has long been a crossroads and meeting point for cultures in South East Asia. During
past centuries, the people of Luang Namtha have witnessed the rise and fall of different Thai kingdoms which
have left an archaeological legacy of abandoned temples, stupas and moated cities.
Today the province is populated by over 20 ethnic groups, making it one of the most ethnically diverse provinces
in Laos.

DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY:               TREK TO NA LAN VILLAGE, 5 hours.
After a good breakfast at the Boat Landing Guest House you will drive into town for a quick visit to the local Eco
Tourism and Guides Centre. Here you will leave your main baggage and will meet your local guide. He will give
you a brief introduction to the area with details of your two day trek. Your guide will have been trained as part
of the Nam Ha Eco Tourism Project and will talk to you about the ways in which you can interact with the
villagers in a respectful and sensitive fashion. Guide lines for tourism here have been formulated as a direct
result of consultation with the villagers and residents of Luang Namtha Province to try to ensure that tourism is
as far as possible ‘low impact’.

National Tourism Authority Lao/UNESCO Nam Ha Ecotourism Project Objectives
• Ensure that tourism contributes to the conservation and preservation of natural and cultural heritage
• Ensure community participation and management in tourism development and activities in order to protect
    the cultural rights of affected indigenous people
• Provide members of local communities with essential training and skills relevant to the tourism industry.
• Integrate public and private sector activities

You will then drive for half an hour (20kms) up a pretty valley passing by the village of Ban Namlu where you
will descend to tomorrow. You will arrive at the village of Chalemsouk (750m/2460ft), a village of the Khmu
people, where you will start your trek. You walk through the village, cross a bridge over a small stream and
soon enter secondary forest and pass a signpost for the park. From here you start the ascent, steep in places,
through the forest. Your local guide will point out many interesting things along the way – termites’ nests,
cardamom, rattan for weaving and medicinal plants used by local people for various ailments. Look out for tree
ants’ nests high up in the branches made by weaving together large leaves into a ball. After an hour or so of
ascent the path levels out and you reach a ridgeline (1300m/4265ft) with good views over the jungle-clad
mountains. Another hour of more level walking brings you to a rustic thatched farmer’s hut where you will stop
for a picnic lunch. Banana leaves will be laid out as a table cloth and a variety of dishes set out for everyone to
share, Lao style.
After lunch you will soon enter the community forest of Ban Nalan village. Here you will see flowering shrubs,
cane, fern, creepers, various types of impressively large trees and a mass of lush undergrowth. It is now about
two hours downhill to the village of Ban Nalan, in total about five hours going slowly with plenty of time to stop
to look around and take pictures.

You then arrive at Ban Nalan (750m) a traditional Khmu village. The Khmu are a remnant of the first Lao
people, the Khmer, left when most of them were forced south by migrations from China. On arrival you will no
doubt be greeted by noisy, but not aggressive, dogs. Remember not to pass through the spirit gate at the
entrance to the village but to walk around it. The village is surrounded by vegetable gardens and is set on the
banks of a small river. The houses are built on stilts, with separate small stores for the grain and rice. These

                              2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10
latter have either circular wooden discs on top of the stilts or stilts made from very smooth bamboo sleeves to
stop rats entering the grain stores. Most houses are thatched, though one or two are timber built with metal
roofs. The area beneath the houses is used for storage, for performing various agricultural chores and for
keeping animals. Everywhere you look there are children, pigs, chickens and dogs.

You will walk down through the village to find the village ‘guest house’ which is located in a small compound
near the river. You will sleep in the small ‘guesthouse’, a simple building where you sleep on mattresses on the
floor and you will be provided with a quilt, a pillow and mosquito net. The kitchen/dining area is set in another
building nearby and there is also a toilet in the compound. You may wash at a village tap located nearby.
After you have settled in to your accommodation you may explore the village. Here you will see women sieving
and pounding rice, feeding their pigs and chickens, smoking pipes and drying local tobacco on trays. The locals
like to eat fish and you may well see fish being steam cooked in sealed banana leaves next to an open fire.
Another less attractive trait is their liking for killing and eating songbirds.

The village people are very friendly, but please remember to ask before taking pictures. Your guide may be
able to arrange for you to see inside one of the local houses but please do not enter without an invitation and
remember to always take your shoes off before doing so. Incidentally, remember to never enter a house if
there is a cane latticework sign outside which is put up as a sign for the spirits and may denote a death or a
birth. Remember also, to never touch these signs.

Near the lodge is a large and relatively well built wooden school constructed with money from the European
Union. The village now has two motor driven mills for processing rice and also has a small amount of solar
power. There is a small shop where you may buy beer and soft drinks if you would like to.
Dinner, cooked by your cook who will have travelled with you from Luang Namtha, will be served in the dining
hut and will be very tasty. The villagers may well also provide a jar of the local hooch known as lao hai for the
group to try. This is a fermented rice liquor and is drunk communally through straws. Lao hai is an important
part of any khmu ceremony.

Later on you may be invited to visit a village house or the local headman may come to chat to you. You will
have the chance to learn about problems related to living in such a
remote place with no road access. A major problem for the village
is the lack of consistent medical care. Health problems are mostly
to do with pregnancy and childbirth as medical facilities for this are
almost non-existent. Every three months a doctor passes through
the village and with such rare visits the people rely mainly on
herbal medicine and good spirits in the village to look after them.

 In the evening there is the deafening noise made by frogs down by
the river. You can in fact bathe in this river if you wish, though
ladies should remember to wear a sarong for this.
Overnight simple eco lodge.

Nam Ha National Protected Area
In 1993 the government of Lao PDR established a series of protected areas called National Protected Areas
(NPA). They comprise approximately 12% of the nation's land and represent a positive step towards the
preservation of Laos' unique and valuable natural heritage. The 222,400 sq hectare Nam Ha NPA is home to a
variety of animals, plants and birds, a number of which are globally threatened by hunting by and increasing loss
of habitat. Some of the more spectacular mammals that are found in the protected areas are tigers and the
beautiful clouded leopard, macaques, pangolins, wild Asian elephants, Asiatic black bears, Malayan sun bears,
gaur and wild boar. Having been hunted and trapped for centuries the larger mammals are very shy of human
beings and thus sightings are rare. However, scat and footprints can be found along the trail and near river
banks. For those interested in bird watching, a recent survey reported nearly 300 bird species.

The Taleo
The Taleo is an open bamboo symbol used by many of the ethnic groups in the Luang Namtha area, such as the
Kumu, Tai Lue, Lanteen and Akha. The word taleo means 'eye of the eagle' in the Tai language. Although its
precise meaning depends upon the extent to which it is used, when attached to the gate of a village it usually
means that outsiders should not enter. If you see a taleo during the trek, have your guide ask villagers what you
may or may not do.

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DAY 7 – THURSDAY:               TREK TO BAN NAMLU, 5-6 hours. DRIVE TO MUANG SING, 1½ hours.
When you get up you can have a wander round the village. In these villages chores are always started very early
and the place will be a hive of activity from day break. You will then have breakfast. There will be tea and
coffee, fruit and perhaps a savoury porridge, eggs or bread rolls.

You will say goodbye to the villagers and then set off on the day’s walk, usually by about 9 o’clock. This first
part of the walk is very pretty, following through trees and flowering bushes along the banks of the river to
reach south Ban Nalan – along the way you may well meet young boys out for a day's fishing or hunting. From
south Ban Nalan (where incidentally there are quite a lot of birds) you start the climb to re-cross the ridge you
crossed yesterday. You follow a steep but beautiful path which climbs though pristine virgin forest with some
impressively large trees along the way. You will take lunch near the top of the climb (again it will be a good
Lao-style picnic).

After lunch you will soon arrive at a small pass and from there it is a long, mainly relatively gentle walk down to
the village of Ban Nam Lu (Khmu and Lanten people). There are very pleasant views over the mountains from
the ridge line and on the descent you will pass through varied forest and open clearings and will see grazing
water buffalo along the way. When you reach the village, head to the right to cross a footbridge over a small
river (there may be time for a paddle to cool hot feet) and then it is just a hundred yards up to the tarmac road
where your transport will be waiting. You will then drive back to the Tourism Office in Luang Namtha where
you will say goodbye to your local guide and cook and pick up your main baggage.

You then drive on to the town of Muang Sing (60 km) which takes about 1½ hours. This is a pleasant drive on a
twisting mountain road \t times through an attractive gorge-like valley. Eventually you come out of the hills and
down towards a plain covered in paddy fields.
Overnight Phou Iou Guest House. Here you will have the chance of a welcome shower.
* As the Phou Iou does not currently serve dinner you will walk out to a local restaurant to eat in the evening.

DAY 8 – FRIDAY:                TREK TO SOP EE KHAO, 5 hours.
As you will away for two nights you need to pack gear just for those nights and your main bags may be left in
storage at the hotel.

Breakfast at the Phou Io is excellent – good coffee or tea, eggs and lovely crisp baguettes, fruit and local jam.
After breakfast you walk out from the hotel to the main street to visit firstly the Tourism office where you may
look at maps and information about the area and meet your local guide.

You may also visit the local Tribal Museum. This museum, just along the street from the tourist office, is set in
a former mansion and is surprisingly good and informative. There are excellent displays of tribal costumes and
artefacts and it all gives you a good introduction to some of the tribal people you will be meeting when you are
out in the villages.

You will then take a local tuk tuk or sawngthaew a short way to the start of your trek. On the way you will call
in to visit the villages of Kokmong (a Hmong village) and Seuadaeng (an Akha Puli village). You will start your
walk from Seuadaeng and follow the road for a short way through sugar cane fields up to the village of Huoy
Hoy (Akha Dee Jor people). You may see people weaving on large looms set up outside their houses. From
here you set off gently up through fields past charcoal burners, sugar cane plantations and plantations of
rubber trees. On the way you will have another tasty Lao picnic. As you climb you cross a stream then climb
further through very pretty jungle to finally descend a little to the village of Sop ee Khao a village perched on
a hillside facing north towards China. On the way down you will see an interesting spirit gate.

Sop ee Khao is a village of the Akha Puli people. Your porters for this section may well be cheerful Akha Puli
girls from this village - the women wear a very picturesque costume of leggings and spectacular headdresses
decorated with old coins. This Alkha Puli village has houses built on stilts with roofs of thatch or wooden
shingles. It throngs with people and with children, chicken and pigs. Tea is processed in this village and there
is a small ‘factory’ just behind the lodge.

You pass the village tap and cross a small stream and arrive at your
accommodation for the night. This will be in a very simple building built
on stilts with just two rooms, one a kitchen and one for sleeping. Again
mattresses, quilts, pillows and mosquito nets will be supplied. There is
a basic toilet just down the hill from the lodge – take care when
climbing down the steps from your hut to it in the night!

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Dinner will be served at your accommodation and after dinner local people may come to visit and if you wish
local Akha Puli girls will give you a massage to ease muscles left aching by the day’s walk.
Overnight village accommodation.

Akha Massage
A long-standing tradition within Akha communities is for visitors to be offered a massage after their long hike up
the mountain to the village. This is different from either a Swedish or Thai massage. Akha villagers apply firm,
steady pressure to the recipients back and limbs; ankle, toe and finger joints are loosened by pulling and
snapping. This is normally part of the service that the villagers provide for their visiting guests and you do not
normally have to pay for it but If you do receive one, please consult with your guide about whether any payment
is necessary.

DAY 9 – SATURDAY (CHRISTMAS DAY):             TREK TO HOUYLA, 6-7 hours.
Before breakfast you can wander round the village as it wakes up. You will have breakfast and then set off on
your day’s walk.

This is quite a tough day but it is a beautiful and rewarding walk. Firstly you walk back up out of the village
and then climb steeply, firstly through cutover forest and then into good forest and up to the ridge-line. You
then climb further, even more steeply in places, up along the ridge to a
summit at 1500m/4921ft, a total of 2½ hours from the village. From
here there are good all round views towards Muang Sing and towards
China. You will then follow up and down through beautiful forest of oak
and chestnut and will have lunch on a further summit along the ridge.
If you are lucky you may see monkeys along here. After lunch you start
the long descent from the ridge, through forest, to Houayla. The path
may be steep, rocky and slippery in places and the descent may take up
to 4 hours. You may see birds in the forest as you descend but because
of hunting in this area the birds are very shy.

Finally you descend to a river and then climb up to Houyla, a bustling village of Akha Puli people. As you walk
you will see women working at their looms.

Your village accommodation is again a simple building on stilts with a room for sleeping and a kitchen. Below
is a decent toilet and water for washing.
Overnight Village accommodation.
DAY 10 – SUNDAY:                 TREK TO LOCAL VILLAGES, 4-5 hours.
Houayla is a very lively, friendly and busy village. After breakfast you may have a slow meander through the
village to watch village life. You will see many cheerful ladies wearing full Akha costume and carrying their
babies on their backs. They do their weaving, spinning and other chores out in the open air. Before you leave
the village your guide may be able to arrange a visit to a local house. These houses are often quite spacious,
with large and airy rooms, with a hearth for cooking at one end, living
space or guest accommodation at the other and a separate room for the
family to sleep in off this main room. At the hearth there may be two
separate fires, one for cooking meals for the family and one for cooking
up vegetables and mash for the family pig. These pigs provide either
valuable additional income for the family or the rare chance for the
family to eat meat on festival occasions. The family may also own some
nicely made tribal cooking pots, baskets for individual portions of sticky
rice for use at festivals, wooden boards for the drying of sticky rice,
chopping boards and various other rustic utensils.

After a good look round the village you will leave for the day’s walk. The walking is mostly flat and quite easy.
You take a path out, past a small lake and across a dam and then through cultivated fields of rubber trees.
Before you reach the village of Houayna you pass one of the most elaborate spirit gates of the trip. It is
decorated with knives, guns and even an American rocket, all to keep bad spirits out of the village. You then
pass through the village of Houayna with its fancy Japanese funded school. You leave Houayna by a dirt road
but soon take a footpath, again through fields, to village of Nasay, a White Hmong village, which is
differentiated from Akha villages by having its houses built directly on the ground and not on stilts. You then
continue, through plantations of bananas to the Akha village of Houy Khem. You may have lunch here, possibly
on the veranda of the house of the village headman.

                              2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10
After lunch you leave Houy Khem and continue through further paddy fields, plantations of rubber trees and
sugar cane – The seeds for the rubber trees in this region are supplied by China and the rubber and sugar cane
is grown for the Chinese market and is shipped directly by truck across the nearest border to be processed in
China. You walk to the road head to meet your transport and return to Muang Sing.
Overnight Phou Iou Lodge.

Your local Lao guides
On your trek you will be lead by local certified guides. Trained as part of the Nam Ha Eco Tourism Project,
these men and women have knowledge of and respect for the natural and cultural features of the Luang Namtha
area and the Nam Ha National Protected Area. Be sure to ask them questions about the environment you are
trekking through and consult them if you have any questions about village or forest protocol.

DAY 11 – MONDAY:                DRIVE TO NONG KIAU, 6-7 hour drive.
After another good breakfast you will board your vehicle for the long drive to Nong Kiau. You retrace your steps
through beautiful scenery back to Luang Namtha and then on to Oudomxai for lunch. From Oudomxai the
scenery becomes perhaps slightly more scrubby and less attractive until you near the valley of the River Nam Ou
where you start to see some of the dramatic limestone scenery which this region is known for. Nong Kiau is a
small rustic town on the west bank of the Nam Ou River, by the bridge where the Route 1 to Vietnam crosses the
Nam Ou River. You cross the bridge to find your lodge. This Nong Kiau Riverside Lodge has a lovely location with
restaurant and guest rooms looking out over the river and across to the towering limestone cliffs opposite.
If there are no rooms available at the Nong Kiau Riverside Resort you will stay at the Sunset Bungalow, also
situated on the riverside.

Nong Kiau is situated at the foot of breathtaking, karstic limestone mountains next to
the Nam Ou river. Just a short distance away from Nong Kiau you may visit the
limestone cave of Pathok, once used for shelter during the Indo-China War and
situated at the foot of some quite impressive limestone cliffs. These caves are very
interesting and atmospheric. Some of the original rickety bamboo ladders by which
they were reached still remain although nowadays there is a more sturdy metal
staircase as well. The country side round here is very pretty with cliffs towering
above forest and paddy fields and your guide will be able to suggest some pleasant
walks. You may also walk down to the port to watch boat building in progress.
Overnight Nong Kiau Riverside Resort or Sunset Bungalow.

You will drive or walk to the port and board your traditional river boat to travel downstream through a stunning
landscape of limestone cliffs and peaks. You will see plenty of life going on along the river banks – vegetables
are grown in gardens down to the water’s edge, water buffalo graze and people fish both with nets from canoes
and with static bamboo fish traps. You will also see people panning for gold. After about 3-4 hours you reach
the confluence of the Nam Ou with the Mekong and you will probably have lunch in the restaurant which
overlooks this stunning spot. After lunch, before continuing towards Luang Prabang, you will cross the Mekong
to visit the sacred Pak Ou Caves. These caves are set in the massive limestone cliffs and house thousands of
statues of Buddha. There are two caves, a lower and an upper one, both of which are worth visiting.

You then continue by boat to Luang Prabang and on arrival you will be met and transferred to the Grand Luang
Prabang Hotel.

Once you have checked in and rested a while you will be taken back into town to see the interesting night
market. In the evening the main street of Luang Prabang is closed and Hmong traders set up their stalls. The
place soon buzzes with activity and there will be plenty of opportunities for shopping for handicrafts and a bit of
a haggle. You may either take the vehicle back to the hotel after seeing the market or eat out at one of the
many good restaurants in town and return to the hotel later by tuk-tuk.
Overnight Grand Luang Prabang Hotel.

Your guide and vehicle will pick you up just before dawn to make a pre-breakfast trip into town to see the
monks collecting alms. Early in the morning the town is very quiet and it is a memorable sight to see more than
100 monks walking through the streets with their alms bowls, past temples and shops, to collect their rice and
other foodstuffs from ordinary local people who line the streets to distribute it. You will then return to the
hotel for breakfast.

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After breakfast you will return to town for a comprehensive walking tour of the old city of Luang Prabang. In
1995 UNESCO voted Luang Prabang a World Heritage city and the walking tour features the best parts. You will
probably start with a walk through the morning market where you will see all kinds of foodstuffs on sale – where
else can you see up to 5 or 6 types of rice for sale on a single stall? Next you will visit the Royal Palace. Built in
1904 for King Sisavang Vong it is now a museum and is full of the possessions of the last members of the Royal
family and works of art collected over several generations. Whenever official visitors came to Luang Prabang,
they came up river and the king would meet them at the riverside entrance to his palace. His son was
prevented from taking the throne by the 1975 revolution and he and his wife were exiled to a cave in northern
Laos where they died from starvation. Opposite the Royal Palace is the Hill of Phusi and it worth climbing this
for the views of the city. You will also visit other wats such as Vat Xiang Thong the most historic and prettiest
temple in the city, Wat Khili and Wat Mai, built in 1796 and famous for its five–tiered roof.

The afternoon is free to do your own sightseeing. Overnight Grand Luang Prabang Hotel.

After breakfast you will drive back into town and take a boat across the Mekong river to visit several pretty wats
and villages over there away from the hustle-bustle of the city.

First you will visit charming Wat Long Khoune, traditionally a retreat for the king before his coronation. There
are lovely views of the town from here. You will then walk through trees to see a nearby limestone cave (Wat
Tham Xiang Maen) where the king also traditionally meditated. You can explore this cave with a torch and you
may see bats if you descend far enough. You then climb to the hill top to see Wat Chom Phet, now a little
dilapidated. Again the views of Luang Prabang from here are superb. From this wat you descend to walk
through the attractive and well kept village of Xiang Men and may visit yet another charming wat in the middle
of the village. From the village you will walk back to the riverside to pick up your boat again and continue along
the river for short way to visit a village where the locals are well known for their traditional skills in pottery. Be
sure to walk through the village to see the huge underground kiln where this pottery is fired. Unfortunately
many of the articles made here, such as large pots, are too large to make practical souvenirs!
Return to town for lunch.

You will have the rest of the afternoon free to enjoy the pleasures of Luang Prabang or to relax by the pool at
the hotel.
Overnight Grand Luang Prabang Hotel where you can see the New Year in.

You will be transferred to the airport for the domestic flight to Pakse, far to the south. Pakse is the largest city
in the far south of Laos and is located at the confluence of the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers. The town stretches
along the banks of the Mekong and is quite an attractive and bustling place with a couple of good markets, a
museum and some pleasant shops and restaurants. If the timing of the flight allows there should be time in the
afternoon for sightseeing in the town with a visit to the museum, one of the markets and a visit out to a nearby
village famous for its silk weaving.
Overnight Pakse Hotel.

                                CROSS MEKONG TO DONG DAENG ISLAND.
After breakfast you will drive south from Pakse to the village of
Nakasang where your vehicle will be put on a ferry for the crossing of
the Mekong River to the town of Champasak. You will then drive
through this attractive and rather sleepy town to visit nearby Wat Phou,
considered to be one of the most attractive and evocative Khmer ruins
outside of Cambodia. As you cross the river Mekong on the ferry you
may notice the mountain opposite, topped by a distinctive pillar of rock.
This is the mountain known as Lingparvata and is sacred to the god
Shiva. Wat Phou is situated in a really stunning position at the base of
this mountain. It was at one time linked by a straight road to Angkor
Wat and may even pre-date it, with temples and shrines dating back
perhaps to between the sixth and twelfth centuries. The ruins and the surrounding countryside are very
picturesque and a visit there is well worthwhile. (Note that the steps up to the ruins are steep and uneven so
you need to wear comfortable shoes or boots for this visit). After spending time at the ruins and visiting the
small museum you will drive back to Champasak. There may be time to walk around town and look at some of

                               2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10
the old French colonial mansions and the former royal residence of Prince Boun Oum. Later you will board a
small ferry (two pirogues lashed together, with a platform for the passengers) to cross the Mekong to the island
of Dong Daeng where you will check in at the beautiful La Folie Lodge. This lovely hotel, under French
management, has a swimming pool and the rooms are very pleasant with balconies and views over the Mekong
toward Lingaparvata Mountain and Wat Phou. This is a very laid back place and rooms do not have mini bars or

In the afternoon you may be able to take a walk to a nearby village or an ancient Khmer temple or take a bike
ride round the island.
Overnight La Folie Lodge.

                                KINGFISHER LODGE.
After a breakfast you will again take the ferry, this time to the east bank of the Mekong where you will meet
your transport. You will then drive further east to the village of Ban Kiet Nong. This is one of several villages in
the area where people still keep elephants. Here you will ride on an elephant up to the enigmatic
archaeological site of Phou Asa. Phou Asa is located on the top of an eroded rocky outcrop with spectacular all
round views, especially eastwards over nearby wetlands and towards the Xe Pian Conservation Area where you
will be trekking tomorrow. No one is really certain what Phou Asa was built for but it was probably dates from
the 19th century and was some sort of fortification. In any case it is a lovely spot. From here you will walk
down through jungle to the Kingfisher Eco Lodge.

Later in the afternoon you may go for a bird walk to spot some of the many birds of this area.
Overnight Kingfisher Eco Lodge.

Today you travel by local songtheaw along quite bumpy and dusty roads to the Xe Pian NCPA and on to the
village of Ban Phalay Bok. You will leave your main luggage at the house of the village headman and your
overnight bags will travel to the village by porter or by tractor. Here you will meet your village guide organised
by the local tourism office. Walking out of the village you cross a dam over the river and then set off through
paddy fields before climbing up into forest where you cross some eroded outcrops along the way. You will have
a picnic lunch, probably by a small stream. The locals say that there is plenty of wildlife in this area although it
is quite shy – deer and wild cattle are often spotted. You then continue through old established forest with
some huge trees – these trees are evidently of a type not suitable for building so they have escaped the
woodman’s axe. You finally emerge onto a track and follow this through paddy fields to the village of Ta Ong.
This village is inhabited by Brow/Lavae people. These villagers do not do any weaving or carving and live mostly
by cultivation, the rearing of water buffalo and from products garnered from the forest. Evidently the most
prized of these products is the king cobra which is caught for sale to the Chinese. These are caught with the
help of dogs and a noose, as they only have any value if sold while still alive. The capture of three king cobra
would evidently be enough to buy a motor bike! Other products used by the villagers are timber, herbs
(especially a root used to add strength to lao lao). Evidently egrets are still so common around here only
because the local people do not like their taste. Likewise green pigeons, which are seen in abundance in this
area. Unfortunately many other types of bird are not so lucky and are often caught in lethal traps which you
will see hanging up in the houses. As you walk through this village you will see some strange contrasts – simple
village houses alongside a community television with huge speakers.

You walk through the village to the village guest house which is a well
constructed building with two guest rooms and a pleasant veranda for sitting
out on. In this village guests of the opposite sex are not allowed to sleep in
the same room so couples will have to split up for this night but the rooms
are just a few feet apart across a passageway. There is a good toilet block
across the compound and a hand water pump for washing. The guesthouse is
set a little distance from the village so is relatively quiet. There will be
time to walk round the village and talk to villagers or to take a walk out of
the village to see birds – this area is very good for birds.

You will see that the eco tourism is well organised in this village – there are rotas pinned up for cleaning and
maintaining the lodge, providing mattresses and bedding for guests, and cooking for the guests. Dinner will be
provided by a village family and you will go to their house for this. Take a torch with you so that you can find
your way back afterwards. Overnight simple village guest house.

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You will be awoken by the smell of wood smoke from villagers’ fires and by the sound of birdsong which is quite
unusual for Laos. After a breakfast provided by the villagers and a final look round you will set off out of the
village. You will probably have a different guide today to the one you had yesterday – the work is shared
around. First you will cross paddy fields with large herds of water buffalo and lots of cattle egrets and then you
walk through forest, finally coming out at the fields belonging to the village of Ban Nong Ping. You have to cross
a stream on the way and will need to take your boots off for this but the water will be quite warm and the
stream bottom is sandy. Ban Nong Ping is another village of the Lavae/Brow people. You will walk through the
village down to the banks of a small, slow running river. Here you will board a small canoe and take a very
pleasant and relaxed journey downstream back to Ban Phalay Bok. You should see plenty of birds along the way
and may see animals coming down to drink. You will arrive back at Ban Phalay Bok where you started
yesterday. You will pick up your main baggage and then drive back by songtheaw to Ban Khiet Nong where you
will meet your transport back to Pakse.
Overnight Hotel Pakse.

From Pakse you cross the bridge over the River Mekong for the last time and then it is a 20 minute drive to the
border (42 kms) on a rather ugly road. You will pass lots of trucks exporting mahogany to Thailand while trucks
bringing in consumer goods, much of it on the way to Vietnam, travel in the other direction. Arriving at the
border, there is a very confused and messy area with queues of lorries and a shanty town feel. Your guide will
see you through immigration and will check that your Thai guide is there to meet you. You will pass through
immigration and customs and be met by your Thai guide, driver and vehicle for the 1½hr drive to Ubon airport.
There is an immediate and totally dramatic difference between the Thai side of the border and Laos – Thailand
is conspicuously more wealthy and – more cars, better houses, neater towns. Ubon is a smart provincial airport
and check in is easy. It is a one hour flight to Bangkok where again you will be met and transferred to the
Montien Hotel.

DAY 22 – FRIDAY:                AT LEISURE IN BANGKOK.
Free time to enjoy shopping, sightseeing or just relaxing at the hotel. Overnight Montien Hotel.

DAY 23 – SATURDAY:               FLY TO LONDON.
Transfer to the international airport to catch your flight back to London.

HOTELS:         BANGKOK: We will use the centrally-located 4-star Montien Hotel, which has a swimming pool,
                fitness centre, a good choice of restaurants and is convenient for shopping at the nearby night

                CHIANG SAEN. We use the Hotel Imperial Golden Triangle a comfortable hotel with a swimming
                pool and great views over the Mekong River and a good restaurant.

                PAKBENG. In this wild west, gold rush type of town choice is limited and basic.        The Salika
                Hotel, built a few years ago is probably the best.

                LUANG NAMTHA. We use the Boat Landing Guest House, a place of real character, built from
                local materials, and run on eco tourism principles. Situated next to a river there is always
                interesting life to watch and birds to spot. Accommodation is in individual bungalows along the
                banks of the river, rooms are pleasant with comfortable beds and good bathrooms and there is
                an open dining area serving good Lao food.

                MUANG SING. We use the Phou Io Lodge. This is a very pleasant lodge near the centre of town
                with airy accommodation in individual bungalows, good bathrooms with hot water and verandas
                with seating. We feel this is the best accommodation in Muang Sing.

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                 NONG KIAU. The Nong Kiau River Side is a very pleasant lodge situated just over the bridge
                 with bungalows set above the river. Rooms are delightful with heavy wooden doors and dark
                 wood floors and balconies overlooking the river and the spectacular cliffs on the opposite bank.
                 The food served here is also excellent and both wine and beer are available.
                 If this is not available we will use Sunset Bungalows, also situated on the river.

                 LUANG PRABANG. We use the 4-star Grand Luang Prabang Hotel which is a colonial style
                 property built on the grounds of the Ziengkeo Palace. This once belonged to Prince Phetsarath
                 who chose the site for its fabulous views of the Mekong river and mountains beyond. The 78
                 large, air conditioned rooms are well appointed, and the large landscaped grounds are beautiful.

                 PAKSE. We use the Pakse Hotel. This hotel is situated conveniently in the centre of time near
                 the market and not far from the Mekong River and is managed by a Frenchman and his Lao wife
                 who are making many improvements. Food is good and rooms are basic but comfortable.

                 DONG DAENG ISLAND – We will use La Folie Lodge. As its name implies this is another French
                 managed place and is situated in a stunning position on the banks of the Mekong with pleasant
                 gardens and a swimming pool. Service is attentive and the delicious food has a French bias.
                 However it is has limited rooms and if we are unable to get rooms there we will return to the
                 Pakse Hotel for another night.

                 BAN KHIET NONG – here you will stay at the Kingfisher EcoLodge. This lodge is situated below
                 the heights of Phou Asa overlooking an area of wetlands which is famous for its rich and varied
                 birdlife. This lodge has limited accommodation and rooms here are of mixed standard, some in
                 bungalows with their own bathrooms and simpler rooms in a separate block with shared
                 facilities. Although all rooms are comfortable we cannot guarantee that there will be enough
                 rooms with en-suite facilities for the whole group. The lodge has solar power and lighting only
                 for set hours each day. Food served here is excellent.
                 Again, if there is not space here we will return to Pakse for the night.

             Accommodation when you trek to the villages will be very simple and facilities will be simple.
             There will be no showers and normally no electricity. Washing will normally be at the village
             tap although on occasion your guide may bring you a bowl of washing water. Accommodation
             will be dormitory style and mattresses, pillows, simple quilts and mosquito nets will be
             provided. Two nights is the most time you will be away from showers and other facilities at any
             one time. This contrast in the accommodation offered, from the fairly luxurious to the
             rudimentary, is one of the interesting features of this trip.
             You should bring your own sheet liner (and a light sleeping bag if you are on the
             December/January trip), a head torch, and a mug, plate and cutlery for the Lao style picnics.

MEAL PLAN:       Bed and breakfast in Bangkok and Luang Prabang, all meals included elsewhere in the itinerary.

FLIGHTS:         International flights: We will use a reputable IATA airline such as Qatar, Gulf, Thai or similar.

IMPORTANT NOTE:                    Every effort will be made to keep to the above itinerary, but as this is Adventure Travel
in a remote mountain region, we cannot guarantee it! On treks such as this there will doubtless be changes to the
itinerary above, in terms of anything from the on-the-spot choice of lodge to when a rest day is taken. Weather
conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns, availability of porters and the health of trekkers can all contribute to
changes. The Trek Sirdar will ensure that the trip runs according to plan, but an easy-going nature is an asset!
Timings given are approximate.

                                 2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10
MOUNTAIN KINGDOMS aims to offer the best value for money. We do not charge extra for meal packages or local
charges and try to ensure that all the key elements of your holiday are included - you won't get any nasty

  A local leader assisted by local guides                           All road transport by private vehicles
  Economy class return air fares from the UK                        Boat trips as specified
  UK Departure Tax                                                  Costs of porterage where indicated
  All internal flights and hotel/airport transfers                  Sightseeing as specified
  Good standard hotel accommodation (usually 4                      Carbon offset for clients taking our flight-
  star) in Bangkok and Luang Prabang on bed and                     inclusive option
  breakfast basis                                                   A free high-quality Mountain Kingdoms kit bag
  All accommodation elsewhere as specified and
  all meals

    Travel insurance
    Visa fees
    Single supplements (see box below)
    Lunch and evening meals in Bangkok and Luang Prabang
    Airport departure taxes, excepting UK Departure Tax
    Bar bills and laundry
    Optional trips
                                                OPTIONAL SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT:                    £295
                                                Single rooms will not be available when trekking to villages.

                                                     1st & 2nd Departure                                  from £99
                                                     3rd Departure                                      from £149
                                                                              (please contact the office for details)

Wherever possible we try to absorb these, however from time to time it may be necessary to pass on these
additional costs. All trip prices therefore may be subject to change due to such external factors and the prices
for each individual departure may vary slightly from those published in the current brochure. Any changes to
the price of an individual trip will be advised before a booking is confirmed.

                                         Sunset, Luang Prabang

                                                                                             Buddha Heads, Vientiane

 Waterfall above Luang
                              2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10

Congratulations and many thanks to all of you for an excellent trek and wonderful
experience. Mrs V H, Canada

1. Because there is nothing like it on offer in the UK.
2. The trekking will take you to meet genuine hill tribes.
3. In main cities 4 star hotels have been chosen to add to the enjoyment of your Laos
4.    You will see both the north and south of Laos.
5.    The itineraries include some great boat journeys down the Mekong River.
6.    Fantastic value for money.
7.    Time to enjoy some time in Bangkok as well.
8.    It is an opportunity to contribute to Responsible Tourism in this new and wild region.
9.    We use a reputable IATA airline.
10.   Because Laos is totally different to anything you have done before.

     Wat gateway,                       Fisherman, Luang Prabang
     Luang Prabang

                                                                                             Village girl & baby

            Mountain Kingdoms Ltd, 20 Long Street, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7BT
             Tel: 01453 844400      Fax: 01453 844422      Email:
                                    www.    mountainkingdoms                .com
                              2010_Mekong_Minorities_Christmas_0207.doc Prepared: 01/07/10

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